The US administration has once again said that Pakistan should stake concrete and verifiable action against terrorists and their organizations operating from its soil. In yet another indictment, Washington has again asked Pakistan to take “sustained, verifiable and irreversible” action against the perpetrators of terrorism, while warning Islamabad that “another terror attack on India will prove to be “extremely problematic”.
A senior Trump administration official told reporters at the White House that “We need to see Pakistan taking concrete and sustained action to reign in the terrorist groups, mainly the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) in order to ensure that there is no re-escalation of tension in the region,”.
The official added, if there’s any additional terrorist attack without Pakistan having made a sustained, sincere effort against these groups, it would be extremely problematic for Pakistan and it would cause re-escalation of tensions, which is dangerous for both countries.
On the steps being taken by Pakistan in the aftermath of the Balakot air strike by Indian fighter jets, the official said the US and the international community need to see “irreversible and sustained” action against the terror groups. It’s still early to make a full assessment, the official said.
In recent days, the official said Pakistan has taken some “initial” actions. They have frozen the assets of some terrorist groups and made some arrests. They have taken administrative control of some of the JeM facilities, the official added.
But, Washington clearly needs to see more. The US wants to see irreversible action because in the past, whenever some arrests were made, Pakistan released the individuals after a few months. The terrorist leaders are sometimes still allowed to travel around the country and hold rallies,” the official said.
Reiterating that the United States is looking for “irreversible action”, the White House official said America is working with its international partners to increase pressure on Pakistan. “Because it has been too long that these groups have been able to operate.”
Observing that Pakistan has economic concerns as well, the official said the Financial Action Tasks Force (FATF) is one area which demonstrates the need for them to take these actions against terror groups. “Otherwise, they’re at risk within the system and the FATF to be grey-listed,” the official said.
Pakistan needs to decide if it wants to be viewed as a responsible international player and have access to all the financial mechanisms that are available or whether it is going to continue to fail to take the steps necessary against these terrorist groups and see itself further isolated. “The choice is Pakistan’s,” the senior administration official asserted. While the situation between the two south Asian neighbours has de-escalated, the two armies are still on high alert and that concerns the US,.
Hence, the US realizes that if there is another terrorist attack on India, the world could see quick escalation in the situation once again. America has made it very clear to Pakistan “that any additional military action by either side runs an unacceptably high risk, for both countries and for the region,” the official said.
The Trump Administration, the official said, has taken a “zero tolerance policy” on the issue of safe havens to terrorists. “The terror terrorist attack on February 14th on India was a demonstration that Pakistan’s continuing provision of sanctuary for any terrorist group is not acceptable,” the official said.
During the height of the crisis, the United States was in continuous contact with Indian and Pakistani officials, both on the ground in New Delhi and Islamabad. US officials were working the phones continuously and were deeply engaged in seeking to de-escalate what was a very dangerous moment in India-Pakistan relations, the official said.
Hence, the onus now is clearly on Pakistan to act decisively. Islamabad now runs the risk of being alienated by the international community on the issue of terrorism.
Script: Kaushik Roy, Air: Strategic Affairs Analyst